The Freecom 1 by Cardo Systems
Bluetooth for Solo Motorcyclists
The Cardo Freecom 1 is a Bluetooth audio system aimed specifically at solo riders wanting phone, music and GPS audio. It lacks bike-to-bike or rider-to-passenger communication but the trade-off is a lower price point. I don’t use bike-to-bike communications as I very rarely ride with others, for me the Freecom 1 is ideal.
Although it lacks bike-to-bike and rider-to-passenger communication it has a lot of advanced features for motorcycle audio including parallel audio streaming and automatic volume control.
It shouldn’t need to be charged often, on a big ride it should have enough power for all-day riding with an estimated 13 hours of talk time on a charge. If the battery does run out while you are on the road it can be charged while in-use. It’s also fully weather and water-proof with and IP67 rating. All day in the rain is no problem.
The Freecom speaker connection is via a 3.5mm jack. If you prefer using earbuds you can unplug the speakers and connect earbuds without the need for any adapters, just plugs straight in and works. The 40mm speakers are the best sounding helmet speakers I have experienced with full, clear audio and more than loud enough even on the highway.
Cardo uses a cradle attached to the helmet to securely hold the Freecom 1. It can be easily removed from the cradle but the speakers and mic stay mounted in the helmet. It’s a nice feature if you want to move your Freecom between helmets; you only need an additional mount kit and speakers, much cheaper than buying a second unit. This also means if you want to upgrade to one of the fancier Freecom models you should be able to just buy the head unit and pop it into your existing cradle.
The lack of an external battery makes the installation quick and easy. Install the included 40mm speakers in the ear pockets of your helmet using the provided hook and loop. I used the included spacers to get the speakers as close to my ears as possible but this will vary depending on helmet and personal fit. Mount either the adhesive or clip cradle on the left side of your helmet. Connect everything up and stash any extra wiring under the helmet liner and you are set.
The first of two issues I ran into is that the Freecom 1 only includes a boom microphone which doesn’t seem to fit full face helmets very well. It just barely fits in my Arai Quantum-X and was difficult to get in there. I’ll be picking up the optional wired mic as soon as I can and would suggest this for all full-faced helmet users. The included boom mic is good quality and should fit modular helmets, I just wish they had included the wired mic as well.
The other problem I had was that it is a bit confusing which phone app to use with the Freecom 1. There are multiple apps by Cardo on the Apple App Store, for various devices, but it was unclear which one I works with the Freecom. I initially installed the wrong app before figuring it out. I found the app handy for changing some settings but isn’t crucial, just convenient.
Both issues are relatively minor and not enough to sway my overall opinion of the Freecom 1.
For my initial test I rode out to Sauvie Island, did a lap and rode back. I had the Freecom 1 paired to my BMW Nav V on the ride out and to my iPhone for the ride back to test different features. Due to the nuances of the BMW Nav V I can’t pair my iPhone and the Nav V both directly to the Freecom, I have to pair the phone to the GPS normally and then the GPS to my Bluetooth headset but this is not an issue with the Freecom, it does this with other Bluetooth headsets as well.
The automatic volume (AGC) feature is trick, to me this is alone was worth the price of entry. The volume change is subtle, you almost don’t notice it when it’s happening but the Freecom 1 stays loud and clear at all speeds. With my previous setup I had to take my left hand off the bars whenever I exited a highway to turn the volume down.
GPS instructions are clear and easy to understand from the 40mm speakers and music sounds good, even with earplugs in.
Buttons on the device are raised and have good feel even with gloves, spaced far enough apart that I had no problems hitting the correct button every time.
Firmware updates can be done via their site, Cardo Community website. Easy to do once you are registered, just install their browser extension and connect the Freecom via the provided USB cable. Click of a button and wait a couple minutes, that’s it.
I don’t make phone calls while on the bike so I didn’t really test the phone features in depth, nor do I have a point of reference to compare, but with the testing I did do it seemed to work well. Simple to make a call and sounded good when I tried it. The Freecom makes it as intuitive as possible.
If you need a bike-to-bike or passenger communicator the more expensive Freecom 2 or 4 would be the way to go. The 2 is rider-to-passenger capable and the 4 also offers bike-to-bike comms. Both have additional features over the 1 including conference calling and voice activated intercom.
Overall I am very happy with the Freecom 1, especially at this price point. Bluetooth for motorcyclists has come a long way over the last few years and Cardo seems to be leading the industry.